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28 June, 2022
 
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Ukraine-Russia crisis: What to know in the escalating crisis

The fallout began Tuesday as oil prices rose and stock markets fell

Source: AP

From a hastily-convened meeting of the United Nations Security Council to capitals around the world, leaders have condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of two pro-Russia regions in eastern Ukraine as independent and his order to send troops there.

They also warned of global fallout from the crisis over Ukraine, which was evident Tuesday as oil prices rose, stock markets fell, and the U.K. slapped sanctions on Russian banks.

Here’s a glance at the top things to know Tuesday about the conflict over Ukraine and the security crisis in Eastern Europe:

HAS RUSSIA INVADED UKRAINE?

The White House is now calling Russia’s troop deployments in eastern Ukraine an “invasion” after initially being hesitant to use the term. Around the world, leaders condemned Putin and prepared to hit his administration with sanctions.

“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,” said Jon Finer, principal deputy national security adviser. He said “latest” was important. “An invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway.”

The Biden administration resisted initially calling the deployment of troops an invasion because the White House wanted to see what Russia was actually going to do, but that changed after assessing Russian troop movements, said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

U.K. officials, including U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, note that this is not only an invasion this week, but a second invasion by Russia.

“Russia has already invaded Ukraine. They did it in 2014, occupied illegally Crimea and Donbas. This is a further invasion of their sovereign territory. No one recognizes the legitimacy of the occupation and annexation of Crimea. Not even the Chinese have recognized that to date,” Wallace said.

The White House issued an executive order Monday to prohibit U.S. investment and trade in the separatist regions. Additional measures — likely sanctions — were to be announced Tuesday by the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union.

WHAT’S HAPPENING ON THE GROUND IN EASTERN UKRAINE?

Convoys of armored vehicles were seen rolling across Ukraine’s separatist-controlled territories late Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear if they were Russian.

A vaguely worded decree signed by Putin late Monday did not say if Russian troops were on the move, and it cast his order as an effort to “maintain peace.”

Russian officials haven’t yet acknowledged any troop deployments to the rebel east, but Vladislav Brig, a member of the separatist local council in Donetsk, told reporters that Russian troops already had moved in, taking up positions in the region’s north and west.

The legislation expected to quickly sail through both houses of Russia’s parliament Tuesday envisages military ties, including the possible establishment of Russian military bases in Ukraine’s separatist regions.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told U.K. lawmakers that Russian tanks were already in eastern Ukraine.

“Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers” have been spotted in the eastern Ukraine regions recognized by Putin, Johnson said.

He said that amounts to “a renewed invasion” of Ukraine. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has previously operated in eastern Ukraine.

WHAT IS UKRAINE'S RESPONSE?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought to project calm, telling the country in an address overnight: “We are not afraid of anyone or anything.”

Protesters, some draped in Ukrainian flags, gathered outside the Russian Embassy in Kyiv. One held up a sign that read: “We choose Europe not Russia.”

GERMANY MOVES TO HALT GAS PIPELINE CERTIFICATION

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany has taken steps to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, as he slammed Putin’s actions on Ukraine as a “serious break of international law.”

The decision is a significant move for the German government, which had long resisted pulling the plug on the project despite pressure from the United States and some European countries to do so.

Scholz told reporters in Berlin it was necessary to “send a clear signal to Moscow that such actions won’t remain without consequences.”

Scholz said it is now “up to the international community to react to this one-sided, incomprehensible and unjustified action by the Russian president.

Washington has for years argued that building another pipeline bringing natural gas from Russia to Germany increases Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.

WHAT ARE THE U.K. AND THE EUROPEAN UNION DOING?

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says his government is slapping sanctions on five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals over Russia’s latest military moves on Ukraine.

Johnson told lawmakers that sanctions would hit Rossiya Bank, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.

He said three Russian oligarchs with interests in energy and infrastructure -- Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg -- will have their assets frozen and be banned from traveling to the U.K.

Johnson accused Putin of “establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive” against Ukraine and said “further powerful sanctions” would follow if that happened.

Top European Union officials said the bloc is set to impose sanctions on several Russian officials and banks financing the Russian armed forces as part of moves to Moscow’s access to EU capital and financial markets.

The actions, to be taken in the wake of Russia’s decision to recognize the independence of two separatist regions in southeast Ukraine and to deploy troops there, would “target those who were involved in the illegal decision,” an EU statement said.

The statement did not identify who the sanctioned Russians might be.

The EU sanctions would also “target trade from the two breakaway regions to and from the EU, to ensure that those responsible clearly feel the economic consequences of their illegal and aggressive actions,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel said.

EU foreign ministers are meeting later Tuesday in Paris to discuss the measures.

IS THERE STILL ROOM FOR DIPLOMACY?

With an estimated 150,000 Russian troops massed on three sides of Ukraine, the U.S. warned last week that Putin had already decided to invade. Still, President Joe Biden and Putin tentatively agreed to a meeting brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron in a last-ditch effort to avoid war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, though, said “it’s premature to talk about specific plans for a summit.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will be in Washington on Tuesday to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the State Department said.

Ukraine’s United Nations ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said during a Monday night Security Council meeting: “We are committed to a political diplomatic settlement and do not succumb to provocations.”

BRITAIN CALLS FOR SOCCER FINAL TO BE MOVED FROM RUSSIA

The British government led calls for the Champions League soccer final to be taken off Russia by European football’s governing body to punish its deepening intervention in Ukraine.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson highlighted concerns about the showpiece men’s game being played in St. Petersburg on May 28 as he urged Russian President Vladimir Putin not to conduct a full invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s absolutely vital in this critical moment that President Putin understands that what he is doing is going to be a disaster for Russia,” Johnson told the House of Commons.

“He is going to end up with ... a Russia that is more isolated, a Russia that has pariah status, no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries.”

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL?

Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador demanded that Russia cancel its recognition of the independence of the separatist regions in the east, immediately withdraw its “occupation troops” and return to negotiations.

Sergiy Kyslytsya said during Monday night’s emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Monday that Ukraine called the rare evening session to protest and condemn Putin’s “illegal and illegitimate” decision to recognize the separatist-controlled regions.

Kyslytsya said Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders “have been and will remain unchangeable regardless of any statements and actions by the Russian Federation.”

He said Putin’s moves “may be considered” as Russia’s unilateral withdrawal from the Minsk Agreements, which were aimed at restoring peace to eastern Ukraine, the scene of fighting between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, dismissed “as nonsense” Putin’s assertion that Russian troops would be in Donbas as peacekeepers, saying their presence is “clearly the basis for Russia’s attempt to create a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine.”

Thomas-Greenfield said the Russian president has presented the world with a choice and it “must not look away” because “history tells us that looking the other way in the face of such hostility will be a far more costly path.”

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